Research highlight

Biochemistry: Depleting phosphorus starvation

Nature Communications

February 27, 2013

A new lipid molecule which plays an essential role in protecting crops, including rice, against phosphorus depletion is reported in Nature Communications this week. Phosphorus is an indispensable nutrient for plants, but its availability is often limited. This finding may therefore prove useful for breeding plants with increased yield in harsh, phosphorus-starved environments.

Plants have developed several ways to adapt to phosphorus-limited environments some of which involve changing the composition of the chloroplast membrane lipids thus allowing for enhanced phosphorus mobilization. This process is known as lipid remodelling. Kazuki Saito and colleagues apply metabolomic analysis to investigate lipid remodelling in detail and identify a new key lipid molecule, GlcADG, that protects plants against phosphorus depletion. The authors suggest that GlcADG is not essential for maintaining phosphorus levels but instead it likely contributes to creating the best cell condition possible for the proper functioning of organelles in unfavourable, phosphorus limited environments.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms2512

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